Thematically, I liked Noah. I had been prepared for the worst distortion of scripture I could ever imagine and carefully watched the movie to see if it had any redeeming qualities. I was surprised to see that things related to the actual flood sequence had a great amount of Biblical accuracy: The ark was a sea-worthy vessel representative of the dimensions given in Genesis, and it kept a fantastic amount of animals alive during the flood. The flood itself was much as I would see it from the Bible – the rains poured down, the deep exploded unto deep, and the waters covered the earth, even to the tip of the highest mountain. The flood was brought on by mankind that was wicked and deserved judgment. The Creation account, presented as a story to Noah’s children, also seemed to hold pretty closely to the account in Genesis.
I liked those elements. They left me with a sense of God’s power.
I believe God is alive and powerful and active and that He speaks today, calling us to repent and seek after Him. God can use whatever He wants to accomplish His purposes, and if He chooses, Noah can be that tool. However, I don’t know that this will be the overwhelming response, but more the special case.
The point between creative license and heresy is somewhat blurred in my mind. Giants made of rocks and barren wastelands are not out of imagination for me. I don’t think they were part of the original Genesis, but they aren’t too much of a thematic stretch for me. Even these parts that were obviously different from the Sunday School version of Noah were still entertaining. I was rooting for Noah and his family.
The problem comes with the heart of the story. Noah’s flood is about judgment on a wicked and ruthless earth that God was sorry He had created. As just, holy creator, it is His right to destroy. In fact, if not for His mercy, each and every one of us today would deserve the flood. Romans 3 says, “There is none righteous, no not one.” The true heart of Genesis is a just but merciful God who destroys but leaves a remnant, that though there must be punishment for sin, He still provides a way for His people to survive. The Biblical Noah was a righteous man who walked with God, and God spoke to him with directions and prophesy about the coming flood. After the flood, God made a covenant with Noah and future generations that He would never destroy the earth with a flood again, and He put a rainbow in the clouds as a reminder of this promise.
None of this is in Noah.
In the movie, Noah, God never speaks to Noah; Noah has a dream and thinks building a boat is what the silent creator would have him do. Noah believes all men are destined for destruction and there is no mercy. There is no hope, and there is no promise. The very end of the movie alludes to a rainbow, but no reason for its existence is given.
That is where the movie falls short for me. As an adult who grew up in the church, these elements of the original story were going through my head as I watched the movie, and if I combined what I knew with what I saw, there was a decently passable movie with a lot of questionable, but at first unnoticeable, mystic elements. Unfortunately, a lot of little things are off with this movie. I am not a theology student and I do not have a seminary degree, so some of them I caught on to in the movie theater, and some I realized after as I was doing more research. On their own, each of these instances wouldn’t bother me a whole lot. (This article goes into a good amount of detail about the mystic elements: http://drbrianmattson.com/journal/2014/3/31/sympathy-for-the-devil ) Unfortunately, these details stack together to make almost an entire movie of an unbiblical Noah.
I am not going to tell you to see this movie. I am not going to tell you not to see it. That’s between you and God. I would never want to tell you to go see something that could cause you to stumble. As I said before, God can and will use this movie for His glory, no matter what the intent is of the producers. But it’s not something that’s going to be shown in Sunday School as a representation of Biblical Noah any time soon. However, if you can see it with a clear conscience, do, if only so you have an opportunity to fluently share the truth of the original story.
The best piece of advice I heard in this whole debate was to talk through the movie with other believers before you decide yay or nay. The movie throws a lot of Biblical and unbiblical references together, and you can’t catch them all in one sitting. Read more than one review. There are a lot of perspectives, as this is not a strictly black and white issue. You can read my interview with Brian Godawa, novelist and critic, here.
I see Noah as this: All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and without the Savior Jesus, I too would be drowning in that flood. It’s only by God’s mercy that He saved me.
Speak the truth with humble, tender hearts. Remember this, “Love is patient, love is kind…it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs...Love rejoices in truth.”